Blood banking is a common and necessary function performed at Veterinary Care Specialists. It involves collecting, storing, and in some cases separating blood into its different components. However, not just anyone can donate blood. There are a number of precautions and requirements that must be fulfilled before one can be considered an approved blood donor.
To become a donor our pets must fulfill certain characteristics and requirements. In order to safely collect the necessary amount of blood needed to help our patients the canine donor must reach a weight of more than 50 pounds. Pets that weight less can not safely donate a substantial amount of blood.
Donors must be full grown adults and therefore donors have to be between the ages of 1 and 7 years. Unfortunately, pets older than 7 years old can not donate since this may adversely affect their health if they have underlying illnesses. To prevent disease transmission between one pet to another, all donors must be current on vaccines, be heart worm tested each year, and take monthly heart worm preventatives, year round. All donors will be screened for infectious diseases as well.
Patients, despite their age, with concurrent diseases or on certain medications can not donate blood either. It is important that all medical history be relayed and documented during the process of becoming a blood donor to ensure the safety handler, donor, and recipient.
It is also especially important that each donor have a good temperament and disposition. Patients that are excessively fearful, aggressive, or who can not be restrained with ease do not make good candidates into the donor program. During collection patients must be content laying on their side very still while being petted and gently restrained.
The screening process requires a small amount of blood be sampled to determine each candidate’s blood type. Not all dogs meeting the initial donor requirements above can be blood donors. In general preference is given to pets that hold a Universal Donor status, however, because of the great need for blood products, other blood types can and frequently are used as donors.
Universal blood donors provide blood that can be administered to dogs of all blood types. There are many different blood types in the dog world. Non-universal donors may also donate, but may be used less frequently than universal donors.
If your pet is a suitable donor, meets our entire list of requirements, and is well behaved in a variety of different environments we will then collect further samples which are sent to a veterinary laboratory to screen for underlying diseases and infectious diseases. Once your pet's screening process is complete and all requirements have been met, we will contact you and setup a time for donation.
The Donation Process
Pets will often stay with us f
or one to three hours for each donation. We can also watch you pets for longer periods to work within your schedule. With each donation one of our doctors performs a complete physical exam. Prior to each donation your pet's red blood cell count and protein level (PCV/TS) will be evaluated. This is a simple blood test but just yet another precaution taken to ensure your pet can donate that day.
The actual time of donation varies from ten to fifteen minutes as blood is removed from the jugular vein of the neck. Your pet will be gently restrained during this time period and given lots of petting and attention. After the donation a meal is provided and your pet is monitored for 1-3 hours afterwords to ensure they are ready to go home again. If your pet has dietary restrictions we may ask you to bring your own pets diet with them at each donation.
Your pets blood is collected and processed immediately. It can be kept as whole blood or it can be separated into components: red blood cells and plasma. Whole blood and red blood cells remain useful for up to 5 weeks while plasma can be frozen and is good for one year or longer in some instances.
Dogs can safely donate every 6 weeks. About 450 millileters are collected from each dog. The donation event itself is relatively painless. A collection bag (the same as used in humans) is used and blood is drawn from the neck (this is why it is important that your pet have a good disposition when being held and in a variety of different situations).
To Those In Need
Red blood cells can be administered to sick pets. Red blood cells provide oxygen to the body and its organs and are necessary for patients that are bleeding or whose body is not making their own red blood cells or whose body is destroying their own red blood cells. Our hospital uses blood products often in caring for our critically ill patients.
Plasma is necessary for patients who are bleeding and whose body is incapable of naturally clotting and stopping bleeding on its own. There are genetic disorders, severe infections, poison exposures (rat bait being the most common) that all can affect a patients ability to stop bleeding even from something as simple as a scratch or a bruise. Plasma is also important in patients suffering from organ failure (sepsis, drowning, heat stroke) as the administration of this product can be a life saving procedure.
Benefits of being a Donor
The blood your pet donates will be available to help save other pets. Just as people sometimes need transfusions, so to do our pets for various reasons (trauma, severe infections, poisonings). Each donation your pet makes can save a life or many lives, therefore, each time your pet donates, their blood may be going to more than one pet!
There are many benefits both for your pet and to you for participating in Blood Banking! You will:
- Know your dog’s blood type: DEA (dog erythrocyte antigen) 1.1 Negative or Positive.
- A physical exam is performed at each donation.
- Receive annual complete blood work for your pet at no charge to you.
- Have basic blood work (PCV/TS - Packed Cell Volume and Total Solids) performed with each donation event.
- Help save the lives of many pets in need!